If only as a symbol of the trade's collective anger with United
Airlines, the initiator of the latest round of draconian commission
cutbacks, last week's decision by ASTA's board of directors to
expel the carrier from its ranks is righteous and reasonable.
Whether the board members will decide to purge other suppliers
that work against the best interests of travel agents and the
traveling public remains to be seen, but there can be no better
time than now for the Society to draw a bold line between friend
How's this as a workable membership guideline: If you're not
with us, you're against us.
In any event, relegating United to a place of infamy with the
notorious likes of the anti-agent Renaissance Cruises is one of
several steps ASTA is taking in response to the proliferating ranks
of the five percenters.
In addition to pinning the tail on this particular donkey, the
Society said it plans to "fight back" by filing suit in Wisconsin,
alleging the airlines have violated a state law governing
competition; lobbying in Washington to remove antitrust immunity
from the airlines, and lodging a complaint with the Transportation
Department about the pay cuts.
While we applaud these and other strategic initiatives designed
to reverse the airlines' present course, we cannot help concluding
that lawsuits and lobbying will accomplish little or nothing in the
Rather, we agree with Carlson Leisure Group's Michael Batt, who
said, "Airlines will continue to lower commissions until ... their
costs [compared to ours] are substantially higher."
It is up to travel agents, by influencing their clients' travel
choices and/or by shifting burdensome booking costs to the
carriers' in-house res systems, to make a commissionless
Can -- or will -- they do it? We certainly hope so.